What if the College Football Playoff Had 24 Teams in 2018

We already talked about how the current College Football Playoff and its four-team bracket was a pseudo-expansion of the previous BCS system, and it didn’t solve a whole lot of problems since that expansion still left well over two-thirds of college football teams starting their season with a zero-percent chance of reaching said playoff bracket.

We know that expansion is likely inevitable, it’s just deciding what form it will take. We at Forgotten5 decided to create and simulate a 24-team playoff to take the expansion to the logical extreme and decide just how much expansion would be too much.

Your reminder of the guidelines:

  • If you win your conference, you are in
  • If you’re a Power Five team, winning your conference also means a first-round bye
  • Highest-ranked G5 team gets a first-round home game
  • Without a conference title, you don’t get into the top 25 without at least nine wins

We used these rules to alter the CFP ranking from each year going into bowl season, then set up the bracket. Each matchup was simulated 10 times using WhatIf Sports and their delightfully easy simulator, with an 11th sim if there was a tie.

Army hit a three-peat against Navy and reached double-digits in wins. Boise State squeaks into the MWC title game and loses, while UAB and Middle Tennessee State both make first-during-playoff-season appearances in the C-USA title game, and UCF somehow outperforms last year’s team.

Bracket Shenanigans:

Well, the MAC continues to show up in the bracket, so yay for that. Still waiting for a competitive performance, though.

The Mountain West manages to get three teams into the bracket, and while Boise and Utah State got waxed by SEC programs, Fresno State hit the road to Austin and proved handily that Texas is once again not back.

Appalachian State continued their climb and *very nearly* pulled off an upset against a regional foe in Kentucky, as Jalin Moore and Bennie Snell traded blows (175 rush yards each) but Kentucky got out to a quick start in the second half and never looked back.

Army became the latest team to not survive the Nittany Lions, while UAB struggled mightily in a road trip to Pullman, WA – but at least they got the chance to take that test.

Unfortunately that was all she wrote, as Fresno State spend the next weekend getting chopped up by your eventual national champion Clemson Tigers.

Full data below:


Matchup Winner Final Margin of Victory (Tiebreaker)
First Round
[17]Syracuse-[16]Utah Utah 10-0 23.3
[24]NIU-[9]Washington Washington 9-1 21
[21]Army-[12]Penn State Penn State 10-0 19.7
[20]UAB-[13]Washington State Washington State 9-1 14.89
[19]Appalachian State-[14]Kentucky Kentucky 5-5* (22-24)
[22]Boise State-[11]LSU LSU 10-0 20.5
[23]Utah State-[10]Florida Florida 9-1 11.11
[18]Fresno State-[15]Texas Fresno State 8-2 14.875
Second Round
Utah-[1]Alabama Alabama 10-0 23.5
Washington-[8]Michigan Michigan 7-3 12.29
Penn State-[5]Georgia Georgia 10-0 15.3
Washington State-[4]Oklahoma Oklahoma 8-2 30.5
Kentucky-[3]Notre Dame Notre Dame 8-2 21.25
LSU-[6]Ohio State Ohio State 7-3 12.57
Florida-[7]UCF Florida 6-4 12.67
Fresno State-[2]Clemson Clemson 10-0 29.4
Third Round
Michigan-Alabama Alabama 9-1 18.56
Georgia-Oklahoma Oklahoma 10-0 12.5
Ohio State-Notre Dame Notre Dame 8-2 12.375
Florida-Clemson Clemson 9-1 32.78
Oklahoma-Alabama Alabama 6-4 11
Notre Dame-Clemson Clemson 10-0 19
Clemson-Alabama Clemson 6-4 14.83


Of Note: Army’s appearance also meant the first time an independent not named Notre Dame made the playoffs. It wasn’t the best showing, but having a shot in the spotlight would be the icing on the cake for an Army team that retained the Commander in Chief Trophy. Of note for Appalachian State, I ran that simulation another 10 times and they wound up winning seven of them. Do with that what you will.

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